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Project GeckoAid

GeckoAid? What's that?

Project GeckoAid is our community program and were ar econtinuing with whatever charity work we can under GeckoAdventure. Our current mission is to provide transport for doctors (there are several other phases to this project) (and identify other villages for assistance) to get to remote villages in West Malaysia. The government provides helicopters to ferry doctors to very remote villages. This is supplemented by local mobile clinics that visit the villages every one to four months, depending on the accessibility and remoteness of the village. However, we at GeckoAdventure have discovered that the villagers in the remotest areas have to walk considerable distances to seek medical treatment. Since most villagers do not own any transport, they sometimes have to walk five kilometers or more while carrying sick infants or children when they know a mobile clinic is in the area.

Our goal was to take the doctors right into these villages using skilled 4x4 drivers and their vehicles. This is an opportunity for those of us in the off road community of Malaysia to also give something back to the communities where we play and spend our free time.

Read about our successful missions here March 2005, May 2005, July 2005, September 2005 trip will be posted of very soon as are having trouble with the 2005 backup.

GeckoAid took a break during 2006-2007 but is back at present in 2008 the form of assisting or running charity trips to Pos Simpo and Cameron Highlands villages. I will update these over the next week as we launch our new look web page. We are also reviewing our commitment to GeckoAid don't worry we are not dropping it I am changing the type of help we give more in the coming months.

The idea for Project GeckoAid was tossed around over several camp fires (why do we always come up with ideas around camp fires) deep in the Malaysian Jungle and post-jungle trip the terse meetings at local cafes. How can we help the Orang Asli? Do they need help? Can we get the help we need to help the villagers? A plan was formulated. Phase one was to get regular medical aid to them. Joycelyn, our intrepid journalist, put out a query among some of her contacts and got several replies. One of them had a friend at a hospital who might be able to help. He turned out to be Dr mar Sing, the head of Pediatrics at the Ipoh Hospital. After several e-mails we made the two-hour trip up to Ipoh to meet Dr mar. Over cold drinks and fruit, we discussed a plan and our first mission.

We discovered we all had one thing in common. All of us have wondered how to help the Orang Asli at one point or another and how to go about it.

To Doctor mar's credit, he managed to get together doctors and medical supplies for us. The GeckoAdventure took care of the logistics, food and sponsored three boxes of oranges and some water melons for the kids.

We are not religious or race-based. Our primary target is to get medical aid to the remotest Asli communities in West Malaysia.

Project GeckoAid Charity Needs

People keep asking, "Can I come along and assist?". We would love to have more volunteers but the interest of our precious cargo - the doctors - volunteers have to ensure that their vehicles meet the following requirements as some of these tracks become dangerous when wet.

  • Driver MUST be 4x4 experienced. Trainee drivers slow down the convoy and we operate on tight deadlines as there are at least 200 people per village for the doctors to see.
  • Vehicles must be safe and in good condition (jungle scars are okay but badly maintained vehicles are not) as you may have to carry a doctor or a medic volunteer.
  • Eyesight - you must be able to drive at dusk and at night as we do not stop until we reach our destination.
  • The "winch wench" or "co-pilot/co-driver" is optional. However, we usually like to keep the co-pilot seat free for the doctors to get a hands on view of the world. Drivers have to assist each other for problems as the doctors are too precious to risk in recoveries.
  • Mud Terrain tires are a minimum for trips like Kg Beswok as it is now starting to rain. We now also know that mud terrain (M/T) tires are also insufficient, hence the old faithful SIMEX JUNGLE TREKKER II or SIMEX JUNGLE EXTREME CENTIPEDES are the best.
  • A winch is highly desirable, along with all recovery gear (recovery gear including snatch straps, high lift jack, shovel and shackles are the minimum). For places such as Pos Simpo in Kelantan, recovery gear is compulsory.
  • We do not advise that you bring children on the trip as these trips are not classified as family fun. Also, space is premium as our main priorities are the doctors and their medications.
    GeckoAid

    GeckoAid 1 Trip - 5 March 2005 - Saturday

    Midnight: Two of the GeckoAdventure - Dave and Joycelyn - are still packing and checking their 4x4s. They are very concerned about their little stock standard baby Nissan Frontier (Nero). Can he make it in the rough terrain. But nothing can be done; we need a truck to carry the doctors' medicines and Nero was it. Finally, at 2am, it is gecko sleep time. Little did we realise that he had left the sweet potatoes on the bench.

    5.30am: Rendezvous time but all three of the GeckoAdventure - David, Dave and Joycelyn - have all woken up late. Dave and Joycelyn scramble to pack the cooler boxes and head off for the 180km trip from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh. Our other Gecko (Michael) is in Ipoh. We will meet him and the doctors at the Ipoh Hospital Emergency Car park.

    8.40am: We finally arrive in Ipoh Hospital and are greeted by three doctors (2 Pediatricians and 1 GP) whom we are introduced to as Dr Reuben (hey, he's a giant), Dr Sheila and Dr Cham and then told to drop the Doc prefix. The tiny GeckoAdventure Nissan Frontier (Navara) is loaded up with medical supplies. We then head off to sleepy Sungai Siput for makan (food) and a quick introduction and team bonding before we are back into the steel monsters. For Dr's Sheila and Cham its their first trip off-road or into the jungle. Dr Reuben he's been in 4x4s and helicopters so we considered him an old hand.

    The vehicles are 2 Toyota Landcruiser II's (Gecko 1 and Gecko 2)fully equipped to take on almost anything and one stock standard Daihatsu Ferozza and one stock standard Nissan Frontier (Nero).

    After the brunch in Sungai Siput, we are off to Lasah, the last little Sleepy Hollow before the tarmac ends and the 4x4 track commences. The road ends dramatically with large potholes.


    GeckoAid

    11.00am: We are cruising up the 4x4 track, take the right at a "Y" intersection and cross a magnificent log bridge little do we know that we were heading in the wrong direction. By 2pm, we have crossed a rickety log bridge that we could not remember crossing the last time we were here. We became more suspicious when the track deteriorates further. The GPS (Global Positioning System) unit shows that Kampong Beswok (we only have one GPS point to Kg Beswok) to be 8k away constantly and not really changing no matter how far we drive. Finally it jumps to 14k and we stop at a kampong and ask the locals. They tell us the kampong is "over there" (pointing over the hill) but we have to go back to the big bridge and then take the left fork - AAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEYYAAHHHHH! Two Asli's are offered fuel and some loot to escort us back to the bridge. However, within 1km, the scooter mysteriously gets a flat and we are on our own again. The return trip is done pretty quick and by 4pm we are back on track and start encountering terrain we know.

    Doctor Reuben is amazed at the treatment/punishment the Red Cruiser receives and how it survives. Joycelyn drives the standard Nissan considerably slower, allowing us time to hack away at errant bamboo and trees to protect it from scratches and dents. He is, however, a little alarmed when he is informed each time the Red Cruiser lifts a wheel up as we ascend steep hills. It's a very dry and dusty track that would be considerably more difficult if wet (note very difficult).

    Stethoscope time! De worming time! Infant Treatment time
    Jumping Sack
    Stool for Hood
    Broken Axle

    Finally the GPS starts making sense and we progressively creep closer to the kampong - 3.89k, 3.5k, 2.5k - and finally, 800m, 500m. It beeps, warning us that the destination is close. We cross one last muddy bridge, climb a little rise round the corner and there is Kampong Beswok on the right and a large freshly burnt bamboo grove on the left. It is almost 5.30pm and we are at an altitude of approximately 450 meters.

    We are directed to drive up the steep hill to the kampong headman's (Mohamad Daud) house and are kindly offered an empty house to sleep in. But we decline politely and descend the slope carefully, trying to avoid the mad chickens running everywhere - the penalty for running over a kampong chicken is not nice. We set up the clinic on the large flat area below the kampong.

    We have the doctors ready to start work in 15 minutes, with tarp erected and makeshift tables. Slowly the villagers start coming down, families, kids all waiting patiently for the doctors to attend to them. Dr Reuben does the adults and Dr's Cham and Sheila check out the kids, hand out vitamin tablets and give the kids a deforming etc. The Geckos help by passing medicines to the doctors and mixing brew that they doctors syringe into the kids mouths (work stuff etc). Meanwhile the Geckos also have 2 of the boxes of oranges to pass out. For some reason, they pass this job to the Westerner as he is softer on the kids. One orange per kid. We enjoy it and so do the kids. Pretty soon the two boxes are empty, leaving us with one to dispense for the return trip. The kids are running around with 1 to 3 oranges each. The adults have the vitamin packs and the kampong headman, armfuls of medications and a set of instructions.

    7.00pm: We decide to shut up shop and concentrate on preparing our food since we had not eaten since 10am. The Asli's provide us with firewood and GeckoAdventure Dave loses the firewood chopping competition against the Asli.


    GeckoAid

    Not content with being beaten he then purchases 3 quality blowpipes off the locals for his growing collection. Dave is nicknamed 2K by the doctors for his mention of the distance each time he is asked.

    All are happy with the health of the Asli villagers and what we achieved. We have a few more villagers to see in the morning and Joycelyn is to interview the kampong head for the Sun Weekend newspaper. We have handed out some 168 oranges to kids so we believe the population is somewhere around 140 kids and 200 plus adults with several kids getting more than one orange.

    8.00pm: A local turns up with a gift of two trussed up chickens for us to terminate and cook. We politely decline as we do not want to eat their precious chickens.

    Dinner is Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes (rats! where are they?), Red Peppers, Carrots all wrapped in foil and tossed into the hot coals with Chicken Breasts marinated in olive oil, paprika and basil, cooked on a pan on the hot coals - sounds yummy - it was and not even the rain could put the fire out. Dr Reuben is determined to sing Dave happy birthday and finally a rendition of happy birthday is sung. An evening of merriment until about midnight, when we hear an engine. Motorbike? Nope. 4x4? Yup? What is it? It's a Nissan engine. Finally we realise its Rudee (a 4x4 friend) who has driven from Terengganu some 6 to 7 hours away to come and be with us on his way back to Penang.

    1.00am: It's bed time for the docs and the geckos. The doctors are getting their first sleep in the jungle. Dr Reuben was expecting to sleep on the ground - no such luck, we have a camp bed for him. We all roll into bed exhausted.

    The Pharmacy Orange Distribution Orange booty
    Magnificient View
    Storm coming
    Storm coming

    GeckoAid 1 Trip - 5 March 2005 - Saturday

    The night is cold with a chilly breeze blowing under the 4x4s, blowing into your face if you face the wrong way. We are all woken up very early by a out of sync rooster. Slowly, we arise, have breakfast and prepare the clinic.

    The fire is stoked again and the billy boiled for much needed tea and coffee. Joycelyn cooks breakfast and finally we start packing away the food to open the clinic, this time on the back of the Nissan Frontier as Joycelyn is interviewing the kampong head who is a very switched on young man. We all take a liking to him and will be back to visit him in a couple of months.

    10.30am: We head off, stopping at small kampong on the return journey, passing out the contents of our remaining box of oranges and the doctors passing out medical kits with instructions to either the Kampong head or the local midwife. There is no time for clinics, but most of the kids look pretty healthy. As we progress down, the kampong are more and more well cared for by medical services and we drop the remaining medical supplies at a clinic near Lintang, a large village.

    Lunch/afternoon tea is at Lasah and we get severely ripped off. Looks like the cook penalized us for having to leave the Mahjong table to cook for us. They were also out of everything we ordered including rice.

    The little baby stock standard Nissan Frontier has survived with only a few scratches underneath - simply amazing considering the terrain. The awesome engine seems to be its saving grace, else it would be in a lot of bother. Nissan please take note. However, it will not make it through any tougher terrain.


    GeckoAid

    To Dr's Reuben, Sheila and Cham, a big Thank You from geckoadventure. To those who want to help, contact any of the geckos, Michael Oh, David Lee, Joycelyn Lee and Dave Stewart.

    Planning for the next trip is already under way, with another kampong in the process of being identified. It is a village that had almost everything washed away during the rains late last year. More 4x4 drivers have volunteered their time and vehicles. If you want to volunteer your time and vehicle, contact us at geckoadventure.


    GeckoAid

    GeckoAid Trip 2

    Preview

    It started out as a convoy of 7 vehicles (3 Landcruisers, 2 Jeeps, 1 Pajero and an Isuzu Trooper) on a medical mission but at the end of the first day, Murphy's Law had struck several times. We encountered vehicle failures and the weather and other delays looked like they would keep us from achieving our mission. Read on to find out more as our tattooed Mat Salleh Reporter gives us the Gecko view.


    GeckoAid

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    7.30pm: The rendezvous was supposed to be at McDonald's Bandar Utama at 7.30pm but the Mat Salleh Reporter and his 3 passengers are not there. It is a holiday weekend in KL and the traffic was worse than bad so we waited an extra hour for our assistant to arrive. We only get there at 8.30pm. But the photographer from WildAsia was even later. We finally start for Ipoh at 9pm. A late conversation with the doctors reveals more challenges; two of the doctors had pulled out, one with a family emergency while the other is on call for possible deployment to Cameron Highlands where there has been an outbreak of gastroenteritis.

    We are almost at the Ipoh exit but we are still not sure of where we are sleeping (not a hotel). We have two destinations planned. One we know but it is too far from Ipoh for the 7am doctor pickup and the other a cryptic word with even more cryptic directions on how to get there. Eventually it is deciphered and we arrive at our campsite at 12.30am. We were the second convoy. The third convoy arrived shortly after. Everyone wants to chat. But realizing that we have to be up in five hours, the camp beds are broken out and all 17 of us sleep under the 20-by-20 ft tarp near the noisy little stream.

    Jumping Sack Mmmmm high hood! Broken Axle
    Jumping Sack Stool for Hood Broken Axle
    Magnificent view Thunder Storm Coming
    Magnificient View Storm coming

    Saturday, May 21, 2005

    A misty morning finds two Orang Asli sleeping in the playground beside us with a Hessian sack that is moving. Closer inspection reveals frogs (presumably for sale at pet shops). We are some 40 minutes late as we wait for the Isuzu Trooper to be packed.

    After weaving our way through Ipoh town, we finally arrive at the Ipoh General Hospital and find Dr Sheila with two new doctors and the medicines. We load up and head off for a quick breakfast and introductions as we had a long drive of some 280k away to Gua Musang in Kelantan, in northern Peninsular Malaysia. Refueling at an Ipoh service station was hilarious as the attendant could not reach the bonnet and has to use a stool to check the oil, fill the windscreen washers and wash the windows.

    We try to make our way out of Ipoh but our Ipoh-born convoy leader gets lost exiting the service station and loses the convoy. We finally got the convoy together again and head for Cameron Highlands. Passing Cameron Highlands, we decided to make a pit stop at some hot springs. Disaster struck. Pika's Pajero gets stuck at the bottom of a slope. Close inspection reveals a broken axle. Out jumped Doctor Nisha from his vehicle into Albert's Isuzu Trooper. Pika and his Pajero are left. They caught up with us some 36 hours later after effecting repairs. We are now two hours behind schedule. No mobile communications are available so we will have to call for a tow truck from Gua Musang. At Gua Musang, we met with two more trucks, which were supposed to lead us to Pos Simpo. We still had at least 3 hours of off road driving. Lunch is eaten on the run,


    GeckoAid

    The convoy weaves its way through oil palm and rubber plantations before crossing a steel bridge over the very brown Sungai Nenggiri. This was the start of serious off road driving for us. The GPS showed that it was 20km in a straight line to Pos Simpo; this means we have at least 40km to go. It is past 2pm. We are still some 3 hours behind. Climbing a long and steep 700m, we are stopped while our sweep (from the previous convoy) is recovered from the bottom as it refuses to start (another Pajero). He arrives but then we have a puncture to repair. More delays. Another climb and we encounter a magnificent view at some 700 m above sea level. We stop for a break but the dark clouds and rolling thunder makes us continue in earnest. The GPS now shows 16km. After what seems an eternity of steep climbs and descents we arrive at a small kampong on the top of a rise. Its now 4.30pm and the main body of the other convoy are waiting for us.

    We decide not to set up the planned clinic but push on to tonight's camp site/kampong and then return in the morning to run a 3 to 4 hour clinic. Only 6.5k to camp, according to the GPS. It's steep and the track deteriorates significantly. We are greeted with fallen logs and steep and narrow climbs. After crossing a precarious log bridge we have a narrow and nasty 1km climb. The last 2 vehicles of the first convoy make it without waiting for us. We are next. Gecko Red (our Toyota Landcruiser II) and the Mat Salleh make it with wheels clawing skywards and slamming into the downside bank side of a landslide at the most difficult bit. The next Landcruiser II makes it as well. But Albert's Isuzu snaps its rear drive shaft on the landslide, leaving it wedged against the bank with no drive.


    GeckoAid

    During this time the convoy sweeps Pajero has once again stopped with fuel problems. The recovery of the Isuzu is slow as no winching points are available (all washed away). Eventually, a dead tree in a ditch is used. Once up, we discover the Isuzu is going nowhere with no drive in front or rear. We winch it back down the slope 40m and park it. Unpacking the occupants and moving them to yet another vehicle (Doc Nisha was also in this vehicle). Once the "Isuzu parking" is effected, the broken convoy sweep's Pajero joins the now stuck convoy. It's 7pm and we have lost another 2 1/2 hours. Mist begins to rise up the valley, enveloping us. We are only 1.5k from camp but no one is walking there yet. Finally, we are all up that final climb and commence the last 3km stretch to camp, but not before another precarious and bumpy ride down a slippery track into camp. It took about 12 1/2 hours to travel 300km. Camp is set up in the kampong.


    GeckoAid

    We are sleeping in the local community centre at the grand altitude of 685m. It's cold for some, including the Malaysian acclimatized Mat Salleh. We prepare for the next morning's clinic at the previous kampong, to be from 10am to 1pm. Then, from 3pm to 5.30pm, the clinic opens at the kampong where we are camped at. After the clinic, we planned to take a drive down to the river about 3km below the village for some R&R. Meantime, a single Landcruiser will remove the broken drive shaft from the Isuzu and drive to Gua Musang, effect repairs and collect the first broken Pajero if it has been repaired. Meanwhile, the Pajero had been towed (via a phone call from Gua Musang) to Cameron Highlands and further phone calls to get spares from KL. A rescue vehicle from KL to Cameron Highlands arrived at 3am on Sunday morning with a new axle. Wrong one, though. Pika drives a Japanese import, not a locally assembled one and it is too short. Four washers are welded to the end to make it long enough and the repair is finished at 7.30am. It proceeds to Gua Musang, arriving on Sunday evening. Dinner and a quiet social night is had finally fatigue hits the group and they all sleep in the crowded and cold community centre. It has no windows, just grills.


    Stuck with Broken Drive shaft. Dawn at 700m with sea of cloud below. 6 on a scooter.
    Broken Driveshaft Morning Cloud Six on a scooter
    Dr Nisha treating a family. Dr Yan Wei treating a family.
    Dr Nisha Dr Yan Wei

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    The kampong roosters awaken everyone and breakfast is rustled up (after surveying the world that we can see above us as the rest below is covered by a white ocean of cloud), the two vehicles pack for the trip down to the first kampong. We have to borrow a few seats from the first convoy as we are short of vehicles. Thirty-five minutes later, we reach the village and set up the outdoor clinic. We are only 30 minutes late. Meanwhile, people have been walking in from surrounding kampong and scooters of various conditions and sizes are bouncing down the bumpy tracks with anything up to 6 persons on board. Some scooters start a ferry services of sorts for children. The two doctors Nisha and Yan Wei are flat out, examining a family at a time (, usually between 4 to 7 people and ,dispensing medication and in the case of a few, writing referral letters to the Gua Musang hospital, some 90km away. Dr Nisha gets the screamers and Yan Wei gets the grabbers and kickers. All the 4x4 crew and even Sidah Salleh, a writer from WildAsia, pitch in and two people are assigned to assist each doctor with medicine preparation and orange handouts. The Mat Salleh and the Wildasia photographer, Luqman Lee, get to relax and take pictures and hand out lots of oranges. Finally at 1pm, we have seen at all the patients. The docs are sweating under the sweltering heat and we have all been bitten by bees, most of us more than once. We have given out two boxes of oranges. Time to pack up and head back to base camp. The rescue vehicle appears, heading down to Gua Musang with the broken drive shaft and components. It does not look good as the drive shaft has been welded up before. Packed, and 35 minutes later we arrive at camp and have an hour to relax and grab a snack before the next clinic at 3pm. Sleep seems to be the order of the afternoon for most of us. We say goodbye to the two Jeeps in our convoy, which head back to KL.


    GeckoAid

    At 3pm, we have the clinic set up and the area instantly becomes crowded with families. It's great to watch the doctors in action. The families have similar problems - head lice, skin problems. One infant is seriously sick and desperately needs to get to a hospital. The ailments here are more severe than the previous kampong and the immunization cards for the children seem to be incomplete. After the doctors treat the women and children, it is the turn of the men. The clinic wraps up at 5.30pm but not before the oldest patients in the village have been attended to. Three of them were teenagers during World War II and are treated with great respect by the doctors. One of them is at least 84 years old. The grand total for the day is at least 140 children. We decide that it is time to clean up. After that it's bubu (Malaysia fish traps) shopping time. The Mat Salleh also buys a really big one (bubu) which he has to give to someone else to transport back to KL. Where does one go in the jungle for entertainment, lets drive the 3k to the river below the kampong. Three km of serious jungle bashing, including two lost mirrors and much lost paint, then a 3-minute walk and after crossing a small creek, we are at a large clear, cold, fast-flowing river with the sounds of birds and mother nature at work.


    GeckoAid

    The rumble of thunder makes us pack up at 7pm and we race back to camp but not before the creek has risen significantly and we give the other side of the 4x4s a bashing against the bamboo and ferns. Dinner is pasta with entree of cheese and snacks. The rescue vehicle has not returned so we drive down to check if they have arrived at the forlorn Isuzu. Alas no, so we leave a "ticket" on the window for illegal parking. We calculate the return time of the rescue vehicle to be about 11pm if they have not struck problems. We are surrounded by thunder and it is raining heavily in the distance (the exact direction the rescue vehicle has to pass through). Finally at 11pm, the radio comes alive they (they have also found the repaired Pajero) and are currently at the kampong from this morning's clinic. Half an hour later, the blaze of headlights pierce the night. Once again, we are all together. Tales abound of the tough drive back and the wheel bearings failing on the Landcruiser on the way out. However, the good news is the Isuzu has a repaired drive shaft and it can be fitted in the morning and driven.

    Infected Ear. The happy kicking kid. Kute girl
    Infected Ear Kicking Kid Kute Kid
    Bubu shopping time. Dr Yan Wei treating a family.
    Bubu Shopping Sg Perias

    GeckoAid

    Monday, May 23, 2005

    It has rained during the night. Morning dawns, with a spectacular white cloud display below us. We elect to stay later and let the tracks dry out before ascending at around 11pm. We give out another box of oranges to the happy kids, leaving us with one for the kampong down the road. But 11am rolls around quickly and we are ready to roll. We have a picture session with the Orang Asli before leaving. We ascend and reach the Isuzu and put in the drive shaft. Yup, it fires up and moves with all 4 wheels supplying drive.

    The trip out is slow and slippery. The drive shaft on the Isuzu starts rattling again and it cannot cope with the muddy descents and must go fast. But we finally reach Gua Musang in one piece and it gets a fix-up. From there, it was a slow drive back to Ipoh, where we bade goodbye to the good doctors.

    Many thanks to www.wildasia.net and Oxford University PHD student Juliet Bedford, Lim and Amy, Pika, David, Jeremy Teh, Matthew and Jonathan Woo and the two Doctors Nisha and Yan Wei for making it all happen.

    Please have patience I may be slow in loading up the Thumbnail pix.

    Oranges Time. Oranges Time. Orange Peeling Knife! Yikes!!!!!!!
    Oranges Oranges Oranges
    Oranges Time. Departure Pic.
    Oranges Final Pic

    GeckoAid Trip 3

    It started out as a convoy of 7 vehicles (4 Landcruisers, 1 Pajero and a Ford Ranger) on a medical mission but by the end of the first day, Murphy's Law had struck several times.

    This trip ended as two convoys (the first, of 3 Toyota's and the second, with a sick Ford Ranger and an escort of a Pajero and two Toyota's) We encountered vehicle failures. Once again, it looked like we might be kept from our mission. Read on to find out more as our tattooed Mat Salleh Reporter gives us the Gecko view.

    Convoy Trail Head Squeaky Bearings Happy Kids

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    We slowly but surely tootle along the highway, The Mat Salleh and Joycelyn in their little red LCII and Neil in his Toyota Hilux.

    We were missing our other Gecko, Jida, who had mysteriously pulled a ligament in her ankle "sitting" at dinner earlier in the week (sounds unbelievable, but it's true). We are slowly being pursued up the highway by Adzhar and Abu Musa in their "warrior" Landcruiser. Finally we arrive at our usual Friday night camping spot of Ulu Chepor (200k North of Kualar Lumpur our starting point) and meet with Lim and Amy, Pika, Kerwin & Teck Him. Adzhar and Musa show up after about an hour. We relax with a much-needed cold drink from our coolers and talk until 2.00am when we decide it's time for bed as we have to collect the Doctors in 5 hours. Read onto find out what happens next..........

    Saturday, July 23, 2005

    6.00am rolls (more likes snoozes) around very quick and we are all awakened by the various mobile phone alarms going off. Arriving at the hospital, we find the original crew of doctors from GeckoAid1 - Sheila, Reuben and Cham and a supply of medicine. Finally, we head off towards Kampong Beswok (GPS N nn nn.nnn E nnn nn.nnn) some 70km away and roughly 40km off the tarmac, in the Perak Jungle.

    We have "teh tarik" (and breakfast) at a local stall first before heading off. Finally, we are in Lasah, then off the blacktop, but only after we get smashed and crashed about the cabin as the tarmac disintegrates into a war zone. Ahhhh, luxury! We finally hit the dirt track. It is easy, or is it? Some 20km up, we pull over for sweep Lim to investigate a "noisy wheel" in Kerwin's Ford Ranger. After 10 minutes, Lim tells us over the radio that the wheels are coming off. We turn around. to go look. It's not an injury our Doctors can fix. It needs a Ford Doctor.

    Stuffed Bearing Tranquil Waterfall Sleeping Patient

    The front left wheel bearing has done it's final turn. We go ahead and relax (for 30 mins) whilst the luggage is off-loaded into another vehicle. We are off again. The sick Ford, escorted by Lim and Pika, will join us later at the clinic after having new bearings fitted.

    Kg Beswok appears after we bouncing up the last 20km of deteriorating rocky track. We are finally at Beswok, only 30 minutes late at 12.30pm. It's strangely quiet. We ask for the Headman (Mohamad Daud) but he is now living in Ipoh. We set up the clinic. No visitors. It appears we have arrived at lunch time. Then the locals have their baths and get dressed up for the clinic. We wait for them to approach us while they watch us. Is there a standoff? Sidah of WildAsia does some fast talking with the girls. The men are away hunting and the wives will not do anything without their permission. Also, it seems that some very large families have moved away with the village chief. It takes another 30 minutes but, slowly, the people arrive. We also discover that the remaining villagers are mostly illiterate, including the new headman. There is also no schooling for the children. Finally, it's busy - mainly infants and their mums. There are few men, they are either away hunting or working in the factories. Nothing serious for the Doctors to treat. Musa and Neil are the chief orange distributors. They give out extras to the kids (see the little kid with evidence of several consumed). Good part about this job is we get to keep the soft ones and eat the good bits ourselves. They're delicious. These oranges are expensive at RM65 per box this month. Happy kids run around eating biscuits Alice has been handing out, kids are crying as the docs squirt the deforming stuff down their mouths, innocent babies hang on their mothers' backs. Some of the girls are not yet out of their teens but are already mothers with 2 or 3 children. They have been married since they were 14 or 15. The lack of a school, a teacher and dental care is bugging the Mat Salleh. It continues long after the trip is over. It's a strange scene compared to the last visit. The kids are healthier, the head lice have almost disappeared and we have our suspicions confirmed - there have been more medical visits to the kampong.

    Dental care seems to be a major issue.

    Sick Infant Deworming Hey Mum hes pointing camera at me.

    The GeckoAdventure will be taking this up as an additional part of Project GeckoAid. Equipping a portable 4x4 with dental equipment is the next goal. Anyone want to assist? We hear a diesel - Lim's 1KZ (Toyota). He arrives with a status report on the Ranger - The axle has been removed and is in Sg Siput being repaired. Hopefully, they will be able to join us at camp by 5pm. Lim and Amy stay an hour to give us a hand.

    Finally, it's time to wrap up the clinic and camp 20m below the village on a flat area.

    Dr Cham and Patient Orange Kid Oranges and Multivitamins

    Our total number of patients is not as large as the last time, some 68 families but the good news is health has improved and skin diseases reduced. Joycelyn, the resident GeckoAdventure gourmet chef, has prepared a treat for the doctors with 3 stoves. The menu is Pasta, Curried Chicken, Chicken Liver, Bread, Cheese, cold drinks from the cooler we retrieved the Ranger. The sick Ranger and its escort of one Pajero (broken axle from last trip) and the ever faithful Lim in his Toyota finally arrive at about 6.00pm. The rest of the evening is spent buying custom made blowpipes from the locals including one which is finished overnight and chatting and relaxing after a hard day in the sun.

    Sunday, July 24, 2005

    Up early as we have to go to Kuala Mu some 20km back down the track and then 20km up another track. But it is definitely not as bumpy as the Beswok Track. 9.30am and we are ready, on schedule. Reaching the "log" bridge (the Mat Salleh had an incident here a week later and almost drowned in the river). Only 20km to Kuala Mu. After the first steep climb, the Pajero starts playing up - it is having fuel problems with its recently-fitted tank. The suspicion is that the tank is dirty and the filter is blocked. We persevere on, then the sick Pajero is towed up several hills first by Neil in the trusty Hilux. then Kerwin in his Ranger. Then, when the Ranger was at the back of the convoy, we hear a distress call over the radio: "MY WHEEL HAS COME OFF".

    Lim and Pika (Pajero) drop back to assist (it's confirmed; the "repaired" wheel axle and all have come completely off and the Ranger is sitting forlornly on 3 wheels, blocking the track). The rest of us continue to Kuala Mu. We set up the clinic in the Petronas-sponsored medical room. The Mat Salleh only has concern for the old man he treated a week earlier. This was the main reason we were there - to check on the old man's foot.

    Dr Cham and Patient Orange Kid Oranges and Multivitamins

    Finally, the Mat Salleh hears that the old man is walking to the clinic. Running off, he escorts the elder back to the clinic - neither can communicate with each other but it does not stop the elder from happily chatting with him in Bahasa the entire way. His foot is going to be okay but it is a long process and the suspicion is (from last week's trip) that he is diabetic and it is slowing down the healing process. The little clinic is crowded inside and out. Adzhar plays bouncer. He controls the incoming crowd while Musa sits outside distributing oranges. There are many orchards at Kuala Mu but the durians are not ready to eat. Everyone there is sick of the coconuts and they freely give them away, the rambutans (the MatSalleh's favorite) are not ripe yet so the oranges are a welcome addition to their diet. Jack fruit trees also adorn the village. Lim and Pika arrive and clean up. They have fixed the Pajero's fuel problem and wander off to the waterfall to have a wash to clean off the fuel they are covered in.

    Tough faced kid. Boys hang out log Cute kid

    Kerwin is heard on the radio - "I need two high lift jacks to lift my 4x4 to put the wheel back on." Lim and Pika finish their waterfall wash then head off to assist Kerwin. Meanwhile, we are at least another hour from finishing the clinic. Finally, we have given all the medicine, seen all the patients and given the oranges and clothes out. Time to go home. But first, we need to visit the Kuala Mu waterfall for a refreshing swim. Then we must see how the Ranger repair is progressing on our return trip. We cruise the 2km back and discover the Ranger across the track, blocking all traffic. The axle is back in and welded on as the circlip was lost when the wheel and axle flew out. The brake caliper is in pieces, shattered by the force of the wheel falling off.

    Siddah gets to know the lcoals Happy Kid Hiding from the hot

    The brake line is crimped over, leaving it with 3 braking wheels. Finally, we high lift jack the Ranger up and put on the wheel minus the hub, leaving the Ranger with 2wd low and hi range only. Having to get the doctors back to Ipoh on time, convoy once again splits into two groups; the doctors in 3 vehicles and the Ranger with an escort of the remaining vehicles to pull and lower it up and down the hills for the next 17km until they reach the easy part of the track.

    Musa the Orange man Skin infection 3 sisters
    Asli Hunters The Elder Patient that the MatSalleh treated the week before

    It's getting dark when we emerge from the Jungle and stop for lunch (we were so busy we forgot about lunch) and teh tarik in Sungai Siput. As we finish our meal, the Ranger crew radios us to inform us that they have safely exited the jungle and are traveling at a happy 60kmph with the wounded Ranger. Goodbye's are said to our wonderful doctors at the Hospital and we then prepare for the long 200km drive back to KL. Driving slowly, we reach the warmth of our beds at 12.16am. The other convoy arrives in KL at 1.30am. Already planning the next Project GeckoAid trip (9-11 September) and wondering if it will as adventurous as the previous two. Thanks to Kerwin (broken Ranger), Lim (ever faithful Landcruiser II), Tek Him (Landcruiser Prado), Adzhar (Landcruiser II), Pika (Pajero), Neil (Hilux) and of course Sidah from www.wildasia.net.

    GeckoAid Trip 5 - Kg Rennin Cameron Highlands

    This trip was not an official GeckoAid trip but I was assisting the www.offroadershack guys on a charity trip to an Orang Asli kampong in the Cameron highlands so I am adding it here as it still meets our GeckoAdventure requirement of assisting the Orang Asli in any way we can. The trip had been discussed for weeks in the ORS forum with a list of goodies being donated and bought by ORS people and private individuals and companies. I volunteered the YELLOW wagon for carrying goods so the Thursday night before the trip I was loaded up with 200KG rice ad equal amount of milk powder and UHT milk and clothes and whatever else I could add to really load up the mighty TROOPY. Once loaded I then added a cut down set of camping kit and food.

    I was told this was an easy trip so for comfort's sake I leave the standard road tires on YELLOW read on to see why this was a stupid mistake!

    Destination Kg Renning 7.00 Saturday morning we are meeting (I pickup Kong from work for his first off road trip) at the Shells past the Gombak toll on the way to Genting Highlands awaiting the rest of the team, Storms, Landrovers, Suzuki's, Kembaras (what!!!), Frontiers and Jeeps. Some on MT some on HT's like me.

    First destination is Kg Keyong between Bentong and Raub where we turn left to Cameron Highlands and will be met by our local escort Alpha Romeo 30K from Ringlet to be escorted to Kg Renning. The drive to Sg Keyong was uneventful apart from a near miss mass collision by the whole convoy when we encountered a sudden roadwork (JCB sitting in he middle of the road in a corner with no signs) breakfast was at Sg Keyong while we waited for 2 vehicle who slept through their alarm clocks. Eventually we are off to Sg Keyong at 12.00. A meandering drive up a scenic road I never knew existed as we slowly wound our way towards Cameron Highlands. Then ROADWORK'S - ah the meeting point more Landrovers to collect. Its 1.00pm we have 12.5k to Kg Renning as we turn of the highway to the jungle. One kilometer in we pass a small Asli Kg but this is not the destination however the endow the Kg is a traffic jam - MUD - what we were told easy drive. This is the start of chaos we spend the next 4.5 hours with vehicles stuck everywhere (steel bridges, mud holes, rocks you name it someone got stuck on it) during the slow climb. YELLOW is a meantime having a ball even with its H/T tire picking its way slowly up steep rocky/muddy climbs with the H/T tires not giving much grip - LUCKY YELLOW is long and I use all my many years of off road experience to keep YELLOW on track and mobile. Kong meanwhile cannot believe were we are heading. The Kembaras get stuck, the Nissan's get stuck a Land Rover get stuck I have to recover it. Finally one very steep climb to go YELLOW slams into the bank as it slides sideways heavily loaded we slowly back down and have another go - easy we inch up the yet again muddy rocky slope and suddenly we are in Kg Renning after 4.5 hours

    The goodies are all laid out and the villages split the goods up in front of us Utah gives a speech to the Penghulu and we receive a very humble speech in return for our very unexpected arrival with vehicle loads of goodies.< I amhappy as it looks liek the village culd really do with everything we gave them.

    A vote is had stay here for overnight with no place for running water etc or head up to Ringlet where we have an offer to stay overnight in a new apartment - sounds too good to be true so we all vote yes. Little do we know how far away it really is. Driving out is almost incident free except the flooded steel bridge which gives the low vehicles (kambara's) problems - two flat tires to a kembara also do not help and we discover later he is running SNOW tires and they are narrower than normal hence the mud slipping between tire and rim.

    7.00pm we are out of the jungle and on a gravel road heading to Ringlet - climbing slowly then steeply - I leave YELLOW in 1/2nd gear high range the rest of the convoy on small petrol engines is running low range 1st/2nd for the next 20+k up the hill - that is until the Suzuki (Zook) runs its clutch on the steep climb and can go no further. It is towed the rest of the way to Cameron Highlands township - finally 8.30pm e arrive at civilisation and have dinner our first food since 9.00 this morning.

    Eventually we get to ringlet and happy hour is held outside for many hours

    .

    Next morning breakfast is cooked outside before the long drive downhill to KL the trip a success and another ORS charity trip being planned. Easy track my arse!.

    GeckoAid Trip 6 - Kg Renning

    GeckoAid Trip 7 Pos Simpo & Kg Rekom

    This all has to go into RED and this along with more RICE One of the many many log stockpiles

    After the previous trip to Pos Simpo we all (www.offroadershack.com khaki's) decided to go back and do another proper charity trip (no doctors) and also get to Kg Rekom with some goodies and we kinda hoped the track would be still open. We had 6 volunteers and a pile of goodies to take up. I had 250kg RICE, clothes, 144 tins of baby formulae 50+ toothbrushes and toothpaste, steel shovels for planting the mountain rice the asli's grow, milo for the peninsula of the Kg's and other goodies people had kindly donated. RED was really loaded down and it handled really heavy and slow. TH Friday morning 7.00 my passenger Michael from work is really late and we meet the rest of the gang at RAWANG R&R at 7.45. However we are not last as the Loo family are still also finding their way out of their house in Rawang. First we have to get to Tapah to buy tools for the Penghulu which he requested last time 3:30 see's us in the jungle finally. We narrowly avoid a lorry Bantu loaded up with logs early on and another then suddenly no more once we crossed the big log bridge over Sg Perias we encounter 1 lorry hantu and see no more until we reach this point on the return trip. As we drive up we realise there is no traffic and the track begins to deterioate a good indication the loggers have gone crikey 30k ahead of us in peace with no chance of being crushed by a behemoth lorry hantu. However signs of logging is everywhere logs are piled up on the track side, at log collection points so many. Slowly we are climbing surrounded by lush green jungle and bamboo. Our first obstacle is a narrow gully which in the 5 weeks since the loggers have gone has really eroded quite fast we all come up one at a time as we all know we are fully loaded RED is at least 300kg over vehicle max. Putting me close to 3000kg oops!

    This all has to go into RED and this along with more RICE One of the many many log stockpiles

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